Sizing Titanium looks stronger than ever
The opening McCarthy Insurance Group Rated Novice Hurdle at Cork today (12.20) has a number of interesting entries including The Birdie Crowe, a Jessica Harrington-trained mare which won a maiden hurdle at Limerick in July.
She was out of her depth in Listed company last time, but could go close in a race like this with her jockey Donal McInerney claiming a useful 5lbs.
But it's hard to get away from the favourite WAIT HERE, which should go off around 7/4. The JP McManus-owned gelding will have no problem if the ground turns up heavy, and almost made it a hat-trick of wins at Limerick over Christmas - but he lost nothing in defeat to Monotype and can get back to winning ways under Mark Walsh.
On the same card, a chance is taken on WESTERNER POINT in the Gerardine McCarthy Memorial Handicap Hurdle (1.55), priced around 100/30 in the early markets yesterday.
Eoghan O'Grady has campaigned the nine-year-old over both hurdles and fences, and he was a little disappointing when mid-division in the Grade Three Becher Chase at Aintree last time.
Perhaps his chase mark was a little too high at 134, but he's rated 117 here over the smaller obstacles and he hit 1/5 in-running in his previous race over timber when beaten by a head by Gordon Elliott's Folsom Blue at Clonmel in November off a mark of 114.
He could have more to come off this rating, and I'll be very surprised if he doesn't earn a top-three finish.
Montys Meadow is getting on aged ten, but he's still value for money and often finishes in the frame so is another one to consider priced around 5/1.
We've Grade One action at Naas tomorrow with the Lawlor's Of Naas Novice Hurdle (1.45), and Willie Mullins' NEXT DESTINATION will no doubt be all the rage.
He beat a couple of these including Cracking Smart and Jetz when putting in a career best to win a competitive Grade Two novice hurdle at Navan last month, and looks the sort that could go far.
He's already prominent in the ante-post betting in the novice events at Cheltenham and unless one of these can produce something special, it should be a straightforward task.
That said, the Christmas Festival at Leopardstown has once again taught us that there's no such thing as a dead cert, so at prices around the 1/2 mark, it's a race best watched without a bet.
In the following Eastcoast Seafood & Gouldings Hardware Handicap Steeplechase (2.15), SIZING TITANIUM is a worthy favourite around 11/8.
He was away from the racecourse for two years with an injury, but had a warm-up race in a point-to-point in November before coming back to win a handicap chase under Rules at Navan last time in what turned out to be a career best.
He saw off some decent sorts in that contest and took full advantage of what turned out to be a very lenient mark of 111. He's up 7lbs for this today but should continue to improve, even though he's now aged ten.
Another one to consider is Blue Empyrean on his handicap chase debut. A mark of 105 seems reasonably fair following a promising second place in a novice event at Tramore on New Year's Day.
Earlier at the same meeting, Demi Sang is set to go off as the odds-on favourite in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Chase (1.15), another import for Willie Mullins.
From what we know of his French form, he's quite a decent sort and won a handicap chase at Auteuil last time out - but bookmakers are taking no chances with the price, so preference is for Henry de Bromhead's AVENIR D'UNE VIE, which was available at 6/1 in places yesterday evening.
He unseated his rider in the Racing Post Novices' Chase at Leopardstown won by Footpad, which is a concern as he has failed to complete for the second time in four starts over fences, but he's a promising type and will go close if he keeps out of trouble.